Episode 47 - Richard Tarnas – Part 3: Initiating A New World View Through Dialogue
Duncan Campbell: Rick, I just want to thank you for these two great masterworks, The Passion of the Western Mind and Cosmos and Psyche, and all the gifts that are given in them, and for the perseverance and the great patience, openheartedness and open-mindedness that you describe on your own journey you had to develop, from your initial education as an intellectual and one who is well-educated in the modern mind, to open up to these insights. It’s been a great journey. It’s a great journey to take with you when we read these books, and it’s a great pleasure to spend this time together and to have you as a personal friend.
Rick Tarnas: Duncan, it’s always a pleasure to talk with you. Your knowledge of the fields we cover always makes the dialogue just flow so beautifully. And also, there’s something about the very nature of a dialogue as you do it, that is a kind of parallel to the whole attitude towards life and towards the cosmos that I think certainly my book is trying to support. And I think our whole spiritual challenge of our civilization at this time is, as you say, to move into a more dialogic mode – with each other, with other cultures, between male and female, between generations, and between humanity and other forms of life, and with the cosmos itself. So, in a sense, I think maybe what we’re doing here as a personal dialogue, and that you do with so many people who visit here in Boulder with you, is a kind of microcosm of this larger dialogical imperative really, that calls us in our time.
Duncan: Well, thank you so much, Rick. It is really a wonderful opportunity to celebrate all of us together with all of our deep listeners in an alive universe, and in a cosmos full of beauty and wonder and possibility.
This Part 3 of my dialogues with Richard Tarnas (Scroll down to hear prior Programs 31 and 32 on this Site) is itself a kind of prequel, as is Rick’s prior book The Passion of the Western Mind, to his later work Cosmos and Psyche, which we discuss in Programs 31 and 32 below. In this Program 47, I start with a detailed introduction that summarizes from the perspective of the Living Dialogues’ theme and viewpoint what Rick calls “participatory epistemology” and I call “participatory dialogue”.
In this dialogue we further illuminate the critical importance and history of the emergence of the modern mind with its stress on empowering the individual sense of self, following the indigenous emphasis on the collective, in allowing us to now be able to transcend and include the essence of these prior perspectives in a new “both-and” third consciousness. This new consciousness is further emerging and blooming in the 21st century beyond the late 20th century ‘post-modern’ bridge phase of the modern mind (what Rick refers to as an “era between eras”).
This third consciousness is both brought about and characterized by dialogue and co-creative participation with the universal consciousness in both its material and subtle energy manifestations. (“Dialogue is the Language of Evolutionary Transformation” is a trademark phrase of Living Dialogues.) It is from this perspective that we can appreciate the great contribution Rick Tarnas has made in Cosmos and Psyche, showing how a contemporary deep and expanded ‘archetypal’ astrology can be supremely relevant to all aspects of our personal and public lives, helping to revivify the unifying worldview aspect of the ancient understanding of “as above, so below” on a planetary scale, threading through the work of modern depth psychology from Freud through C.G. Jung, James Hillman, Stanislav Grof and others in the fields of philosophy, science, spirituality, and cultural transformation.
And be sure to listen to next week’s Living Dialogue Program 48 with myself and Michael Meade, when we will explore the role of myth through the ages from indigenous mind through the modern mind and into the newly emerging ‘third consicousness’ (sometimes called ‘noetic’, ‘supramental’, ‘integral’, etc.). These themes are the thread running throughout the vision and practice embodied in all Living Dialogues. All other programs in this series will be of interest on these themes, but particular ones you might wish to click onto listed on the right hand column next to this Program 47 are those with Richard Tarnas (31 and 32), Rupert Sheldrake (6 and 8), Steve McIntosh (25 and 26), Michael Dowd (28), Vine DeLoria, Jr. (29), Stanislav Grof (30), Paul Ray (37), Duane Elgin (40, 41, and 42), and Lynne McTaggart (43 and 44).
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To order a full transcript of this program you can contact me at my website: www.livingdialogues.com or at [email protected]. Many thanks again for your attentive deep listening in helping co-create this program. All the best, Duncan
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Duncan Campbell: Rick, I just want to thank you for this great masterwork, “Cosmos and Psyche” and all the gifts that are given in it, then for the perseverance and the great patience, openheartedness and open-mindedness that you describe on your own journey you had to develop, from your initial education as an intellectual and one who is well-educated in the modern mind, to open up to these insights. It’s been a great journey. It’s a great journey to take with you when we read this book, and it’s a great pleasure to spend this time together and to have you as a personal friend.
Richard Tarnas: Duncan, it’s always a pleasure to talk with you. Your knowledge of the fields we cover always makes the dialogue just flow so beautifully. Also, there’s something about the very nature of a dialogue as you do, that is a kind of parallel to the whole attitude towards life and towards the cosmos, that I think, certainly, my book is trying to support. Our whole spiritual challenge of our civilization at this time has to move into a more dialogical mode, with each other, with other cultures, between male and female, between generations, and between humanity and other forms of life and with the cosmos itself. In a sense, maybe what we’re doing here, as a personal dialogue that you do with so many people who visit here in Boulder with you, is a kind of microcosm of this larger dialogical imperative really, that calls us in our time.
Duncan Campbell: Well, thank you so much, Rick. It’s really a wonderful opportunity to celebrate all of us together with all of our deep listeners in a live universe, and in a cosmos full of beauty and wonder and possibility.
Duncan Campbell: From time immemorial, beginning with indigenous councils and ancient wisdom traditions, through the work of Western visionaries such as Plato, Galileo, and quantum physicist David Bohm, mutually participatory dialogue has been seen as the key to evolving and transforming consciousness, evoking a flow of meaning: a dia (flow) of logos (meaning) - beyond what any one individual can bring through alone. So join us now, as together with you, the active deep listener, we evoke and engage in Living Dialogues.
Duncan Campbell: Welcome to Living Dialogues. I am your host, Duncan Campbell, and with me for this particular dialogue, I’m truly delighted to have as my guest my personal friend and author, Richard Tarnas, known to many of you for his astounding book, “The Passion of the Western Mind”, first published in 1991, and now in use in nearly 100 universities around the country and in other parts of the world, in which he did a great masterwork of bringing an overview of the entire development of Western thought, from not only an historical perspective, from a deep and probing philosophic, psychological and Newmanist perspective. Rick has now published his long-awaited sequel to “The Passion of the Western Mind” and this is the main work. It’s entitled “Cosmos and Psyche, Intimations of a New World View”.
So Rick, a real pleasure to have you here on Living Dialogues.
Richard Tarnas: Thank you. It’s my pleasure too.
Duncan Campbell: I’ll just start with Joseph Campbell’s saying about your “Passion of the Western Mind”, that it was “the most lucid and concise presentation I have read, of the grand lines of what every student should know about the history of Western thought. The writing is elegant, and carries the reader with the momentum of a novel. It is really a noble performance.”
Now, the long-awaited additional book, “Cosmos and Psyche” is not really a sequel. It’s more like “The Passion of the Western Mind” is a prequel to this great book, which takes the entire history of consciousness and brings it forward through the lens of the development of consciousness itself: not just philosophy, but psychology and the deep interactions with the natural world.
I’m going to first give a brief overview. Now, for many of you, familiar with these Living Dialogues programs, you know that we have often said and always do say that the emergence of consciousness began with what we might call in the early stages of the species “indigenous consciousness”, what Martin Prechtel, who’s been on this program, calls “the indigenosity of the human soul. In Rick’s book, he refers to this as “primal consciousness”, one of “participation mystique” or “mystical participation”. What it meant is that people experienced themselves living embedded in a universe that was alive in all its aspects with consciousness. Matter itself was alive. Landscapes were alive with consciousness; what we now call sacred sites, encoded with mysterious and deep energies that communicated with those that placed themselves in relationship to it in that aware way.
Secondly, after the state of the indigenous mind, there came a breaking away, a kind of adolescence, if you will; a kind of progressive empowerment of the human, over and against Mother Nature. At that point, the human mind began to actually void or empty out the natural world, the universe, the cosmos of any meaning, and arrogated progressively more and more meaning to human selfhood and human consciousness itself, not unlike Mark Twain’s famous comment, “When I was 14, I couldn’t believe how ignorant my parents were.” In other words, he had voided them, or emptied them out of any wisdom or consciousness, in his effort to individuate himself as an adolescent. Then, at 21 he said, “When I turned 21, I could hardly believe how much they’d learned in those seven short years.”
And so, we’re really kind of in that situation now, of moving, I believe, in planetary consciousness away from and beyond this kind of self-centered post-modern emphasis on the self, where all of awareness and all of consciousness has really been, as Rick points out, even in charts in his book, scrunched down to a tiny dot on the page in the midst of a universe seen as being without meaning. Now, one of the transformational aspects that’s happening in our culture right now that relates directly to Rick’s book, I would say, is the phenomenon around the movie “What the (Bleep)?” also known to people in our audience.
I had an extensive dialogue with Lynn McTaggert here about her book called “The Field” about emerging developments in science. We might call it the latest cutting-edge science. Quantum physics began over 80 years ago, and its insights have still barely penetrated the general consciousness, in the same way that it took hundreds of years, two or three hundred years, for the insight of Copernicus that the sun was at the center of the universe to be accepted and filter through into the general culture, even though it was confirmed progressively by Bruno, Kepler, Galileo and so on.
So we’re in a similar situation here, where people discovered first at the subatomic realm the principle of non-locality, meaning that the speed of light, Einstein’s famous limitation on matter moving through space, is actually only a relative concept. It’s not absolute, meaning that they have done experiments to show that particles at infinite distances from one another can vibrate and change simultaneously and empathetically, thereby belying the speed of light as the limiting factor of matter having effect on other matter through space. It’s been long thought, and even recently it’s been thought that these quantum phenomena that occur at the subatomic level are constrained only to the sumatomic level.
The reason why Lynn McTaggert’s book “The Field” is so interesting is: it shows that many of these kinds of phenomena discovered first by quantum physics are now being verified in the world that you and I live in. The verification of homeopathy, for instance, has recently come through from a French scientist, and so on. But what we really want to talk about with Rick Tarnas here today is that, if it is true that the entire universe is alive, and we have been saying here on Living Dialogues for years now, we must go back and reactivate our indigenous consciousness, what Martin Prechtel referred to as “the indigenosity of the human soul”.
It is in, I believe, our psychic DNA, and it’s there for us to reawaken in all sorts of multitudinous ways. Once that’s awakened, and once we become aware that we are in an alive, living universe, the messages from that universe can begin to become read by us, communicated by us, and participated in by us, so we can engage the entire universe in a conscious dialogue, and that’s just not limited to plants or animals. Matter itself, landscapes, as I said: landscapes that are out in space in our solar system are called planets, and those planets have vibrational essences, and they have effects through space on people living here on earth. This has long been known as astrology, and long derided by the modern mind as mere superstition, because how could matter, whether it’s next door or miles away like Pluto, have any effect on my consciousness? We all know in the modern mind that matter itself is inert, and has no communicative properties, and certainly no wisdom, and certainly no generative properties.
Well, one of the transitions from the modern mind that Rick has pointed out is Depth Psychology. When C.G. Jung began to take psychology from the realm of personal autobiographical history into the larger, what he called “collective unconscious”, some of his patients began to have images and experiences of animals, let us say, that did not occur in their European context, but did exist in Brazil, and had metaphorical and what he called archetypal influence on their lives, showing that somebody in Switzerland, for instance, could draw on an animal presence or totemic presence in Brazil that they had never heard of or seen, and have it influence and explain a psychological complex that was existing in their own life, well beyond their personal autobiography.
So that kind of transition is illuminated by Rick, and eventually I would say this: put simply, that since we have the principle of non-locality, if we can put that together with a re-enchanted universe of indigenous mind, of primal mind reawakened, it’s very easy for us to actually imagine and understand that planets as far away as Pluto could have a resonant energy that could actually effect events and psychic events, both in our personal history and in the collective consciousness.
What Rick has done, an enormous work, equal in my view to that of Ewing himself and other great thinkers throughout the ages, has codified this in a work of such magisterial splendor that I really have to say, Rick, it really is a true lifetime achievement. I know you’ve been working on this for 30 years, but the level of synchronicities that you point out, collective events in our historical context, and individual psychic biographies, is so astounding that any open mind has to say, “There’s something to this.” There’s not only just coincidence. There is heuristic or normative or teaching content here. If we look at these patterns, it’s like studying historical events and doing pattern recognition.
As we say, “He who is ignorant of the past historical events will repeat them in the present.” So, when we see these patterns, they help us illuminate the present and how we can engage the present in a more aware, participatory and profound way, to bring about a newly emerging consciousness for the benefit of ourselves and all mankind. That really is, Rick, the prologue that I wanted to give, because it really sets us up now to go beyond the introductory material. Perhaps you’d like to start with Copernicus or wherever you’d like, to bring up to date to the present by the time we’re done.
Richard Tarmas: What I might start with would be maybe to clarify one particular point that you brought up, about what we’re looking at when we see these correlations between planetary alignments and historical phenomena. There was a kind of intellectual honesty in Jung that was very philosophically sophisticated on his part, which as he said, with synchronicities, “ We don’t really know why something is happening in the outer world that so perfectly reflects something that’s happening in the inner world, when we can’t see any linear causal connection between the two. All we can see is that there is a connection that is meaningful.” The relationship is one of meaning, rather than one of mechanistic causality.
Duncan Campbell: Exactly.
Richard Tarmas: In the same way, when we see these astrological synchronicities, that is, the correlation between planetary alignments and human experience that has certain patterns, that those patterns are consistent with cyclical alignments over time, we can’t say that Pluto or Neptune or Saturn or Jupiter are somehow emitting vibratory energies that are causing events to happen here, or causing us to experience certain emotions, or things like that. I think that way of looking at things; someday it’s possible that some very subtle form of material energy is going to be discerned or measurable by human technology or something like that.
Personally, after many, many years of observing these correlations, I have to say that the character of the correspondences is so aesthetically complex and has such a multidimensional way of expressing itself, there is a kind of a quality of almost playful artistry in the way, and we’ve noticed this in our own lives, with the kind of artistry in how our lives unfold, with certain patterns and certain synchronistic coincidences that are way beyond what could have happened by purely random effects.
When we see just the sheer complexity and aesthetic quality and imaginative depth with which these correlations seem to be informed, I don’t think that any physical causal mechanism will ever really be able to explain it. It seems to be much more likely that the universe is so pervaded by some absolutely profound intelligence that has aesthetic, moral and imaginative qualities, not just rational in our sort of modern, narrow sense, that I think what’s more likely is that this kind of universal intelligence so pervades the universe, and the universe is so unified at some level, all things breathe together, as Plotinus put it when he was defending the reality of astrological correspondences, so that inner and outer, above and below, macrocosm, microcosm, the heavens and the earth are somehow all integrated in this extraordinary way.
So, that’s how the principle of non-locality may shine a light on these astrological phenomena. I don’t think we’re ever going to get to a place where one can say, “Saturn is causing me to have this.” We could maybe say the Saturn archetype, or as the ancients would have talked about gods and goddesses and we speak sometimes of gods and goddesses, but sometimes archetypal principles or forces. We could talk about a kind of causality at that level, but not a causality at the material level, of the planets affecting events and internal experiences on this plane.
Duncan Campbell: That’s a great clarification because what it points out is; of course that is not what I was meaning to suggest either, that there was any mechanical causality here.
Richard Tarmas: No, you’re talking about kind of subtle energies and resonance, which I think there’s something there, yes.
Duncan Campbell: But more importantly I’m talking about what you and I have described as “participatory dialogue”.
Richard Tarmas: Yes.
Duncan Campbell: In other words, the context is there of a vibrational energy from Pluto or Saturn, which sets up an open-ended opportunity for participatory bringing into being of an event, in its inner action with our human awareness. What we’re taught in the past in the modern mind is two things. One is that nothing in the universe really has any consciousness at all, besides us. It’s just there, like a watch to be taken apart and see what the operating system is, derive some classical laws of physics from that, and go on to invent a jet airplane. But it’s all us doing that. That’s the modern mind.
Then secondly, that what we see in the world basically is a cause-and-effect that is what you called “mechanical causality”. What you and I are talking about, and what you’re talking about so brilliantly in your book, is that this universal intelligence not only embodies everything or pervades everything, but it actually sets up dynamics for open-ended communication where one thing does not cause another. That’s what has been so disappointing about modern astrology, and why educated people, as you point out, have so long regarded it as superstition or charlatan-like non-understanding. Because what they would say is, “If you have a Mars across from your Venus in your chart, then that means you’re going to have trouble in your love life,” and that is ridiculous. There may be a Mars energy that has conflict or struggle or warriorship across from an open-ended love energy like Venus, but that just sets up, as you say in your archetypal astrology, an energetic field that has many possibilities. Then, when we bring our awareness to that field, we can take it in many different directions. We’re not doomed or destined to have any particular outcome. So I’m really, really glad you made that lengthy clarification, because it’s at the heart of the matter.
Richard Tarmas: Yes. I see that how you’re using the word “energy” is that you’re referring to these archetypal forms. I completely agree with that, and I think that just as long as we keep an awareness of the difference between Pluto, the planet, sending out emanations of energy versus a Plutonic Dionysian archetypal principle that somehow correlates with that planet...
Duncan Campbell: Exactly.
Richard Tarmas: ...but that exists in the collective psyche and the collective unconscious.
Ultimately, I think that’s embedded in the Anima Mundi, the soul of the world. If we keep that distinction, I think it’s very helpful. That helps also set up, as you’re pointing out, this greater honoring of human freedom, of human autonomy, and therefore, human responsibility...
Duncan Campbell: Responsibility, yes.
Richard Tarmas: ...in how we engage these powerful forces and energies, because they can inspire us, but there are destructive as well as creative sides to every archetype, which Jung understood well, as did the ancient Greek tragedians and epic poets. I think it’s that more subtle awareness of the human role in enacting, embodying and bringing out the most life-enhancing possible expressions of these archetypal forces. When one approaches the astrological evidence in this way, then astrology becomes an emancipatory path, rather than another form of constraint; another prison, another way in which human beings are bound by forces beyond their control.
I think that’s one of the very big reasons that the modern mind and Christianity as well oppose astrology, because they were standing up for human freedom. I think it took the forging of a sufficiently autonomous human self, an individual sense of selfhood that was sufficiently able to shape its own direction and sense of identity. That took hundreds and hundreds of years, thousands of years really, to be forged. Particularly, that’s occurred in these last three or four hundred years, and I think now that modern self is in a position to come back to the Anima Mundi to reengage these powerful archetypal forces, these gods and goddesses, in the human psyche and the human cosmos and, in a sense, be a co-creative participant in their unfolding. They’re going to express themselves one way or another, and the only question is how we’re going to do it. Will we be unconscious puppets, or can we can we engage in an intelligent and creative partnership and dance?
Duncan Campbell: There’s actually a third way that you illustrate beautifully in your book, which is, in our fear of being overwhelmed by these powerful forces, to not only go in denial about them and be naive about their existence, but to try to control them mechanistically. You have a wonderful metaphor for that when you talk about two suitors. If we are wanting to engage the mystery of a potential beloved, there are two different ways we can approach it. Perhaps you could use those two ways to illustrate how the modern mind, in its adolescent struggle for individuation and control might do it, and how a more mature perspective might engage the mystery and wonder of communicating with the cosmos.
Richard Tarnas: Yes, I was thinking about that just a few minutes ago, so I’m glad you brought it up. In a way, you can see the choice in one thing that the post-modern mind and the philosophy of science has really made clear: the extent to which our approach to reality, what assumptions we approach the world with in order to know it, how that will shape the knowledge that we gain; how the objective is, to a crucial extent, shaped by our own presuppositions.
In a sense, we could imagine, if just we do a little thought experiment. Imagine that you’re the universe, only not the mechanistic, disenchanted unconscious universe of the conventional mainstream modern world view. Imagine that you are an extraordinarily deep-souled, intelligent cosmos that is being approached by two different epistemologies, two different methods of knowing. We could think of them as being two suitors who want to know you. The question is: who would you open up your deepest secrets to?
Would you open up to the suitor who approached you as being essentially inferior to himself? I’ll use the masculine pronoun, not entirely at random. This knower seeks to know you, the universe, with the assumption that you are essentially entirely lacking in intelligence, soul, spiritual value, any capacity for meaningful, purposeful communication, and that the purpose of his knowledge of you is to better control and exploit you and your resources for his own self-enhancement. The basic value there in knowledge is to increase prediction, control, intellectual mastery. That whole approach is one suitor.
Now, would you open your deepest secrets to that suitor, or would you open to a suitor who looked at you (that is an epistemology, a method of analysis, a way of knowing you) that looked at you as being at least as intelligent, and as full of depth of soul and purpose and meaning as he, and who sought to know you, not in order to better predict and control you and to use your resources for his own self-enhancement, but rather in some sense, sought to become one with you, so that in the overcoming of that subject/object division, new realities and new purposes and meanings could unfold from within both of you, and in a sense, a kind of creative, new emergence could take place. From that point of view, the purpose of knowledge for this suitor, this epistemology, has more to do with imaginative richness and aesthetic beauty and sensuous knowledge and a sense of intellectual enrichment, but not so much prediction and control.
If you were the universe, who was endowed with depths of soul and purpose and intelligence, and you were approached by these two suitors, I think it’s probably likely that you would open up your deepest secrets to the second suitor. You would undoubtedly reveal something to the first suitor, but it would be a limited universe, because the constraints and filters of that first suitor would, in a sense, force you into a particular mode of self-manifestation that could quite convince him that he had the true reality. He had “the facts”, and everybody else’s view of the universe was a superstitious projection that was far inferior to his own objective, factual approach.
My basic point with this parable of the two suitors is to basically open up, by recognizing the degree to which our knowledge of the universe is not a simple matter of objective empiricism, but is a much more subtle and complex interaction or relationship between the seeking subject (the human being) and that which is to be known (the cosmos). There is much more of a subtle relationship that, in a sense, Martin Buber’s beautiful metaphor of “I-Thou”, versus an “I-it” relationship. I think basically, the conventional modern scientific perspective about the universe is an example of an “I-it” relationship. What I am suggesting is that the universe may be more fruitfully, profoundly, and in the end, deeply scientifically approached and known through an “I-Thou” relationship with the universe.
Duncan Campbell: Well, Rick, it’s so beautifully said there, and I think, so synchronistic, if I may say so, that we are having this dialogue on Living Dialogues, this very program, which has been inspired, essentially and directly, by that very point of view. We may recall here, the second point of view, The “I-Thou” view is one of dialogue, and that David Bohm, the great quantum physicist, dead now just only several years, wrote a book entitled “On Dialogue” in which he said that in his personal experience and in his experience as a cutting-edge scientist that the way in which the implicate order underneath the apparent chaos and randomness of the physical world would be revealed would be through an “I-Thou” dialogue, and not through the relentless kind of probing and “I-it” approach of modern science. He said that there is an explicate order that is elusive. It happens from time to time, but then, all of a sudden, things happen in our physical universe for which the known classical physics have no apparent explanation. To penetrate below that or beneath that, or into the deeper secrets of the universe, we need to adopt a modality of dialogue. He has suggested that, not just as a scientific principle, but as a principle that we could all adopt in our individual lives, as we relate to our own interiority, as we relate to the awe and mystery of the universe, and as we relate to each other.
One beautiful book that exemplifies that, arrived at completely independently, of course, of David Bohm’s insights, was Doris Lessing’s great book, “The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five”, in which he has a male king of Zone Three, and a female queen of Zone Two, each of which is very much involved in an “I-it” relationship with the opposite gender. The queen of Zone Two feels very superior in her feminine understanding of the world to the king of Zone Three, and vice versa. By order, we might say of the [laughs] in her book as a scientific fantasy, or they call it an imaginative fiction, they get an order from the depth of the universe to say the two of them must actually marry and live together.
Of course, they hate each other for quite a long period of time, and eventually they give in to exactly this kind of surrender and revelation that you’re talking about. They both simultaneously exhaust the “I-it”-ness of their way of relating to the opposite gender, and they go beyond gender, beyond a feminine way of looking at the world, beyond a masculine way of looking at the world, and they acknowledge that it’s their fear of the other and the unknown that has held them back. So, they let go, in a profound trust of the other and, as a result, they come together in a great love, and give birth to the Divine Child, who brings a higher understanding of both the masculine and the feminine. In a way, it’s a fantasy book, but it’s illustrating this profound dialectic of the universe you’ve just described.
Richard Tarnas: Yes, it’s a fictional kind of analogue to the historical moment we’re in right now as a species on the earth and how we’re going to continue to live on the earth, I think will deeply depend upon whether enough people will recognize that we have exhausted the “I-it” modality, and continuing it would only be not only destructive, but self-destructive.
Duncan Campbell: What we might do at this point, Rick, is briefly talk about this in this way: late in your book, you say that this new understanding, this emerging “I-Thou” understanding has actually been obscured by the dawn of this newfound power of reason in the human species, which we can locate with the Copernican revolution. A new solar revolution if you will, in one sense, took place when Copernicus discovered it was the sun at the center of the universe, and not the earth. This gave birth, ultimately, to the enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, to the scientific revolution, to the industrial revolution, to the technological revolution, and so on.
The brilliance of the liberation of human-centered reason in the last three or four hundred years has obscured the profound, let’s say, lunar wisdom and richness that is in the darkness beyond that dawn. The great paradox is: at the very moment that we became further empowered in our understanding, we, by staying attached to it, are obscuring this possibility to go back and create a reactivation of that ancient knowledge, and bring it through all of our modern productivity and innovation and neo-cortex kind of achievements into a higher synthesis - a kind of “hieros gamos” marriage, as you describe it. Perhaps, just a delineation from Copernicus to Darwin as you do in your book might be appropriate at this point. And so Rick, let’s continue.
Richard Tarnas: Yes. I think the Copernican revolution can really be seen as the turning point in Western intellectual and even spiritual evolution. It’s been called, “the great watershed of the Western mind.” In certain ways, everything leads to the Copernican revolution. It utterly depends upon Plato and Pythagoras and Aristotle. It depends on many of the great Greek thinkers, each of whom contributed in different ways, even as they were later transcended and overcome by the Copernican revolution. They were essential for it, and the medieval Christian scholastics brilliantly contributed to it.
Then finally, there was this extraordinary sort of sunburst of the revolution itself. It happens at a moment that, not only in science but right across every area of human activity in Europe at that point, there was something very dramatic going on, because literally, in that one generation surrounding the year 1500, 500 years ago, you had Leonardo and Michelangelo and Raphael all painting and sculpting their masterworks. You had Columbus sailing west and reaching the New World (New World, that is, to Europe), and you had Vasco da Gama sailing east and reaching India, and you had the great Magellan circumnavigation of the entire world. At this exact same 25-year period, you’ve got Luther nailing the 95 Theses on the church door at Littenburg, and commencing that enormous convulsion of European culture that we call the Reformation, and at the exact same moment, literally in the same months as well as years, you have Copernicus first conceiving of the heliocentric hypothesis, and thereby initiating the scientific revolution. All that takes place almost precisely 500 years ago.
Duncan Campbell: We might just interject, Rick, that it was not an easy birth because Luther, himself, was one of those who condemned Copernicus as a nut, basically, and a charlatan.
Richard Tarnas: Yes, I think this is what one has to expect with every significant paradigm revolution. The same thing happens with Darwin, where you have all the cartoons of him looking like a monkey and so forth. He was just so self-evidently wrong, according to the more Biblically grounded cultural authorities of 1860. But in the case of Copernicus, you not only had the religious authorities. First the Protestants, as you mentioned, Luther and Calvin, were the early antagonists to the Copernican idea. Even the most liberal secular philosophers and scientists of that time considered the idea so obviously absurd, that it was worth nothing more than ridicule.
So I mentioned a few of those in the early part of the book, just to show how, in a sense, we’re kind of accustomed to thinking of that revolution as something that swept all in its path. But for a good couple of generations, for 100 years really, only a handful of people were convinced that it was true. In particular, what I want to draw attention to is the sense of a kind of spiritual luminosity, as if the Divine Mind had somehow penetrated their human mind (this is Copernicus, and Kepler, in particular, was a great crucial figure in the revolution, because it was his mathematical discovery of the ellipsis and the three planetary laws of motion that really was the crucial factor in confirming the validity of the Copernican hypothesis) and then Galileo’s telescope which synchronistically he first turned to the heavens in the same several-month period (this was 1609 and 1610) that Kepler published the book with the planetary laws. Galileo’s turning of the telescope to the heavens gave a particular kind of empirical force to the hypothesis, but it was Kepler in particular, who was the crucial figure.
Anyway, all these figures, right up through Newton, had a tremendous sense of being divinely illuminated, in that in some sense, they had broken through the glass darkly of ancient and medieval understanding, to understand for the very first time the planetary motions, which up until then could only have been approximated by these geocentric epicycles and basically, fabricated mathematical formulae that would give them a rough estimate, to be able to predict where the planets were going to be. But they could never take them seriously, as being the way the planets actually moved. Now, with Copernicus and Kepler, there was a sense that they really understood the motion of the planets.
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